Letters to the editor

Katrina delivers wake-up lessons

We Americans have a great opportunity before us to take a close look at how we have been living our lives up to now, the effect it has had on the planet, and how we can change our focus to be forward-thinking. The devastation of Hurricane Katrina, the destruction of domestic oil sources, and the problems caused by shortages of gasoline (and possibly food?) are providing us with a wake-up call saying: Our current level of consumption and our current lifestyles are unsustainable!

There are many truly simple things we can do in our daily lives which would make a huge difference, if we would all take a moment to think about how each of our actions causes an impact:

• Drive more slowly to increase gas mileage. Stop driving SUVs — vehicles which get 30-50 miles per gallon are available; is 8-15 mpg good enough for us?!

• Rather than buying new cars so frequently, keep current ones for longer periods of time to conserve resources.

• If you do get a car, buy a hybrid-electric or biodiesel to reduce dependence on oil and support sustainable technology.

• Buy from locally owned businesses and, especially, buy locally grown food to reduce our dependence on gasoline to transport food all across the country.

• If you only purchase one or two items, do you really need a bag? For larger purchases, use your own cloth shopping bag to save resources.

• Think before you buy anything, “Do I really need it? Can I fix the one I already have? Can I buy it used?

• Replace burned-out light bulbs with compact-fluorescents which use less electricity, last longer and have become less expensive to purchase.

• Support solar and other sustainable energy sources.

Our country is addicted to “more, more, more.” How hard do we have to hit bottom before we begin to make conscious choices which support our long-term well-being? Just as our human spirit — our American spirit — moves us to help our neighbors on the Gulf Coast who have lost so much, I’d like to believe it will also shine us through these increasingly challenging times to preserve our beautiful home and create a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren. Accomplishing this will take each and every one of us!

— Hara Sitnick

The ballad of Bob Dylan

Someone’s got it in for me, they’re planting stories in the press
Whoever it is I wish they’d cut it out but when they will I can only guess

— Bob Dylan, “Idiot Wind,” 1975

Where did you unearth Cecil Bothwell? He alleges that Bob Dylan “eschewed barricades and tear gas, making his calculated comments at a comfortable distance” [“Better Than Bob,” Aug. 24]. If Mr. Bothwell bothers to check, he will discover that Bob Dylan played alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. on the marble of the Lincoln Memorial during the March on Washington in 1963. That single performance, my dear Mr. Bothwell, is called bona fides.

No disrespect to David Rovics; indeed, I am sure he would agree with me — without Bob Dylan, there would be no David Rovics. Mr. Bothwell would be well advised to read a book, or, better yet, check out Martin Scorcese’s upcoming new documentary on Mr. Dylan: No Direction Home.

— J. Matthew Martin

[Writer Cecil Bothwell responds: At the 1963 event, Dylan, as ever, was on a stage that accorded him a national audience — not on the ramparts. That stage was one of the safest places in America that day. I would refer Mr. Martin to Joan Baez’ 1987 autobiography, And A Voice to Sing With, for a first-hand account of Dylan’s motivation and strategies from an intimate source. As for Dylan being a necessary precursor to any subsequent social protest music: Woodie Guthrie, Pete Seeger and Utah Phillips had already blazed that trail before Dylan learned his first three chords and adopted his literarily iconic stage name.]

Say it ain’t so

Have my eyes deceived me, or was that not Carl Mumpower I saw on WLOS News 13 declaring that the gas shortage will probably last longer than predicted — maybe even lasting for weeks? Sorry, Dr. Mumpower, but the last thing we need is for our local community leaders to fan the flames of panic in the wake of such a tragedy.

Our leaders should be encouraging conservation rather than egging on the hysterical gas hoarding, which probably contributed to the gas shortage more than any disruption in supply. It makes one wonder if it is indeed Republican Party policy to spread fear and ignorance amongst the people of this fair land.

— Jeff Hamilton

A family affair

My mom does it — but only in my dreams. Yet, I know she thinks about it differently since I shared an interesting part of my life with her. During dinner recently, I asked, “Hey, Mom, have you ever smoked pot?” My teacher sister and her husband, sitting across from me at the dining-room table, froze mid-chew. My mother looked up from her plate, said “No,” then added a wry smile. “None of my friends smoked any. I never even thought about it.” My mother, who loves her nightly Scotch, then resumed eating. To avoid ruining dinner with this hot issue, I proceeded cautiously. “You know that I don’t like to drink, so instead, I sometimes smoke a joint to relax.” My sister and brother-in-law choked back to life. I then changed the subject, not wanting to detail the boring aspects of being a target of the “War on Drugs,” but I knew she, and they, got the point.

Ongoing newspaper headlines, a collection of sordid lies and soap operas, made me imagine that my mother in particular may have formed a distorted opinion about “reefer madness … which grips the depraved and misguided” — people like me. She needed to know that her own flesh-and-blood was put at enormous risk by stupid dog tricks, the antics of government. At least now when she reads the news, she’ll remember our conversation, and hopefully she’ll also remember it the next time she steps into the voting booth.

Turning the tide on this insane prohibition will happen when we quit lying to our families. If we really want to decriminalize the enjoyment of this God-given herb, then we need to tell the truth, acknowledge who we are and what we like doing, so that the people who love us understand the simple practice. They might not agree with us, but neither do they want to see us in jail or in prison.

— John Buckley

And after the crisis?

The New Orleans disaster has uncovered a vast pocket of black poverty, dramatizing how race is still a giant determinant of how well off a person is. Seeing George Bush walk amidst this glaring fact while he wears crispy clean shirts and jeans, opposes affirmative action, and courts wealthy Condoleeza blacks, shows that this fact won’t penetrate his brain. It’s too insulated by a mountain of money, an ocean of oil, and a universe of ignorance. He will probably blame Katrina on Syria and also bomb Iran for good measure.

At least now some of America knows what it’s like to be bombed. After the flood crisis is over, we’ll pat ourselves on the back for how generous we are, while the victims will return to the intense poverty from which they swam.

— Tasha Mitchell

There are no excuses

I am shocked and outraged by what I have been seeing on TV and reading in the newspapers, [and] I cannot keep silent. There are no excuses for our government not being prepared to protect and defend the American people immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit.

I hold the federal government responsible. Bush should be impeached. And others should be asked to resign. The first concern of any president is the American people that he represents. Well, it recently became obvious that Bush cannot do his job. There is no excuse that can be uttered from any government official for not taking care of our poor and our hungry in their desperate time of need. It is outrageous that such a thing has happened in America.

The fund-raising campaign that both Clinton and Bush’s father have started is an absolute disgrace while Bush himself still supports the war in Iraq. I say to them and to President Bush, get out of Iraq and that will make a donation to the relief fund of $186 million dollars in just the first day!

I shudder to think what would happen to America if another major hurricane hit or if there was another terrorist attack. I really get worried thinking about a pandemic flu outbreak, which is a very real global threat. Has our government informed us about the avian flu? No! Meanwhile, Asia and Europe are already taking precautions. What has our president done? He planned to read a book on pandemics while on vacation.

I am deeply concerned. It is clear to me that we truly cannot count on our federal government to protect us. So I am asking North Carolina state government, Buncombe County and the Asheville city government: What plans do you have for protecting us in case of any national disaster, terrorist attack or pandemic outbreak?

— Mary Ann Winiger

We’re reaping what’s been sowed

I [was] sickened by the lack of help reaching victims in New Orleans. This is the United States, and we should have been there the first day to help those stranded by such an awful storm. Did [the president] need so much time to go into Iraq? He couldn’t even wait for the U.N. inspectors to do their job.

What was he waiting on this time? Where were the National Guard and reserve troops when we needed them? Oh, they’re busy murdering people in another country. They can’t be bothered when we need them here at home.

These policies are deplorable, and the United States has begun to reap the negative results of the president’s murderous actions in Iraq. He should be impeached for stupidity!

— Karen King

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